BE AWARE OF THE SIGNS OF THE TIME AND BE WARY OF FALSE TEACHING
Walter Wilson: Once again, a scene depicting conflict gives way to a scene depicting instruction (cf. 15:1–20). This time, Jesus’s opponents are the Pharisees and Sadducees, who “test” him (cf. 4:1, 3) by asking him to certify his messianic identity by performing some spectacular feat. As in 12:38–42, he responds by condemning the “generation” that makes such a request, maintaining that the only sign they can expect to receive will be the “sign” of Jonah, a reference to Jesus’s death and resurrection. Having rebuffed the leaders’ hostile overture, Jesus leaves them and meets the disciples as they come ashore, greeting them with a warning about the leaders that takes the form of a riddle. The disciples’ confusion regarding what Jesus means by “leaven” prompts him to chide them for their “little faith” and remind them about the miracles of the loaves. In the end, Jesus’s teaching leads the disciples to understanding (16:12; cf. 13:51), even if (as we will soon see) their understanding is still far from complete (cf. 16:22).
Stu Weber: This passage is similar to 12:38-45. In both passages:
- Jesus’ previous contact with the religious leaders had included a scathing condemnation of the hypocrites for serious sins (blaspheming the Holy Spirit in 12:22-37; replacing God’s commands with human tradition in 15:1-20).the religious leaders challenged Jesus’ authority by demanding to see a miraculous sign, proving his authority to be from God.
- Jesus called the hypocrites “a wicked and adulterous generation” (12:39, 45; 16:4) because of their desire for a sign from him.
- Jesus denied their request for a sign.
- Jesus told them they would only receive the “sign of Jonah.”
Stanley Saunders: The Pharisees assert that Jesus’ healings and exorcisms are signs of the power of Beelzebul (9:34; 12:24) rather than of God. In any case, Jesus does not tell his disciples to avoid the Pharisees and Sadducees themselves, as if the threat could be contained by quarantine, but to avoid the leaven that now controls his adversaries and renders their teachings both infectious and destructive of sight, hearing, and understanding. How then might the disciples recognize such leaven for what it really is? Jesus has already told them: study the fruit that falls from the tree (12:33–35).
The story names two dangers for the disciples:
- first, they may not realize what time it is and how the world is being transformed, and
- second, they may be susceptible to misidentifications of the nature of God’s power and to teaching divorced from faithful practice.
Matthew ends the narrative, however, with the assurance that the disciples finally do “understand” (16:12), thus setting the stage for Peter’s confession.
Scott Harris: There are several things to take note of in this passage.
- First, poisoned religion is not concerned with the truth.
- Second, poisoned religion is man-centered, and
- third, poisoned religion understands the temporal, but not the eternal.
The Pharisees and Sadducees had taken Judaism and poisoned it and they found many followers who wanted what they had to offer. Just as our physical body craves carbon monoxide over what is best for it, so in religion man craves not God, but himself. He wants to be the center of his universe, the captain of his fate, and so he finds a way to poison the revelation of God with a man-centered philosophy and then call the evil result “good.” He trades the truth of God’s Word and distorts it according to his own desire.
This type of poisoned religion is still all around us, but it is not just in the false religions and cults. We also find it in the evangelical-fundamental churches. It is present in the watered down gospel of easy believism that presents God as a beneficent grandfather who will overlook any and everything you do rather than as the Holy and just Creator who loves you too much to let you remain in any sinful practice. It reveals its self when people try to earn their way to heaven through rituals and good works. True Christians do good works as a response to God’s love, not as a means to earn it. The poison of man-centered theologies is sweeping into the church as Biblical Counseling centered in God’s grace and mercy to sinful men is replaced with secular psychology that is candy coated with Christian phrases. Poisoned religion is all around us, and it is recognized by its turning away from the truth of God’s word and becoming centered in the thoughts of man rather than the revelation of God.
- First, be a truth seeker.
- Second, recognize that poisoned teaching is by design enticing. It sounds good to our selfish natures. It makes us feel good about ourselves because it is man-centered. This is going to take self-examination into our motives. Why do you do what you do? Why do you refrain from doing what you don’t do? Are the decisions you make in life for your own benefit or for God’s glory? How do you spend your time? How do you spend your money? What occupies your thoughts? What do you pray for? Our purpose for existence is not the pursuit of happiness, but of holiness. Which are you pursuing?
- Third, which do you understand more about: the temporal things of this earthly life or the things of God?
I. (:1-4) IMPERATIVE OF DISCERNING THE SIGNS OF THE TIME – ESPECIALLY REGARDING THE MESSIANIC AGE (HIS MISSION AND AGENDA)
Grant Osborne: We return to the theme of Jewish opposition (13:58 – 14:12; 15:1–20), and this scene echoes the demand for a sign in 12:38–42. The same irony permeates this one, for again this is a major miracle section, and the leaders are unwilling to accept the God-given “signs” and demand that Jesus act on their own terms. Moreover, Jesus has just returned to Galilee after leaving because of opposition (15:21) and is immediately greeted with more rejection. This will prompt two further withdrawals (symbolizing God’s rejection of the people), first to the other side of the lake (vv. 4b–5) and then north to Caesarea Philippi (v. 13).
As in 12:38–40, rejection governs this passage, first the Jewish leaders’ rejection of Jesus in their demand for a sign and then Jesus’ rejection of them in the sign of Jonah. Verses 2b–3 adds the idea of “the signs of the times,” meaning that any alert child of God should see that the kingdom age has indeed dawned. Since the leaders have refused to observe and read these signs, they are rejected by Jesus and by God.
Matthew McCraw: Remember, the Decapolis is on the southeastern (or bottom right) side of the Sea of Galilee. Magadan is on the northwest (or top left) side of the Sea of Galilee. All that to say, generally speaking, when Jesus is on the west side of the sea, He is in Jewish territory; when He is on the east side of the sea, He’s in Gentile territory. So, here Jesus is, back in Jewish territory, and who is waiting for Him? The Pharisees and Sadducees.
A. (:1) Malicious Demand for Some Spectacular Sign from Heaven
“And the Pharisees and Sadducees came up,
and testing Him asked Him to show them a sign from heaven.”
Robert Gundry: Thus Jesus has the same opponents that John the baptizer had (3:7), so that the parallel between these two is extended. By testing Jesus, the Pharisees and Sadducees play a devilish role; for “testing” equates with “tempting.” They go back to the same Greek word that Matthew used for the Devil’s tempting Jesus (4:1, 3). And the Greek verb underlying “asked” connotes insistence. That is, the Pharisees and Sadducees insist on Jesus’ showing them “a sign from heaven,” which means some heavenly display not subject to interpretation as satanically aided.
Daniel Doriani: The Pharisees and Sadducees were rival groups of leaders, so this is an unusual grouping. Here they operate together, for two reasons.
- First, they are the two main groups of the Sanhedrin, the ruling Jewish council (Acts 23:6).
- Second, they are united by a common opposition to Jesus. Apparently they think that the enemy of their enemy is their friend (cf. Luke 23:12).
William Barclay: Hostility, like necessity, makes strange bedfellows. It is an extraordinary phenomenon to find a combination of the Pharisees and Sadducees. They stood for both beliefs and policies which were diametrically opposed. The Pharisees lived life according to the minutest details of the oral and the scribal law; the Sadducees rejected the oral and the scribal law completely, and accepted only the written words of the Bible as their law of life. The Pharisees believed in angels and in the resurrection of the body and the Sadducees did not, an opposition which Paul made use of when he was on trial before the Sanhedrin (Acts 23:6–10). And – in this case most important of all – the Pharisees were not a political party and were prepared to live under any government which would allow them to observe their own religious principles; the Sadducees were the small, wealthy aristocracy, who were the collaborationist party and were quite prepared to serve and co-operate with the Roman government, in order to retain their wealth and their privileges. Further, the Pharisees looked for and longed for the Messiah; the Sadducees did not. It would have been well-nigh impossible to find two more different sects and parties; and yet they came together in their desire to eliminate Jesus. They became united in their hostility.
Grant Osborne: This is not a test to discern the truth as to whether he is from God or is a false prophet, for these groups have already judged him and sought his life (12:14). They do not want a sign (the anarthrous σημεῖον connotes the qualitative aspect, something of “divine significance”) and have rejected the validity of all his miracles. They are only looking for reasons to turn the crowds against him. So theirs is a test like Israel’s “testing” God in the wilderness (Exod 17:2; Deut 6:16; Ps 78:18; 95:9) that brought divine wrath down on themselves. As in 12:38 they demand a heaven-sent spectacle like the exodus “signs” that forced the Hebrews to believe (Exod 4:8, 30–31), though in reality the Jewish leaders want Jesus to be unable to deliver such a sign.
Bethany Bible Church: They demanded “a sign from heaven“. Perhaps they wanted Him to cause the winds to blow down from the clouds and part the sea—as it did in Moses’ day. Perhaps they wanted Him to cause the sun to stand still in the firmament—as it did in Joshua’s day. Perhaps they wanted Him to cause fire to come down from sky and consume an offering—as it did in Elijah’s day.
In any event, they weren’t satisfied with how Jesus had already proven Himself. They were not satisfied with what God had already done to testify of Him. They wanted more. They despised the healings and the feedings. They wanted something big and dramatic—not just something “on earth”. They wanted to dictate the terms—and demanded a sign from heaven of their choosing.
And finally, notice the motive behind this demand for a sign. It wasn’t because they truly wanted a sign. The text tells us; they came “testing Him“. The word used (peirazo) is the same one that was used of the actions of the devil, when we read in Matthew 4:1 that “Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.”
They didn’t ask Jesus for a sign from heaven in order to test and see if He truly was the beloved Son in whom God was well pleased. Their minds had already been made up about Him when they asserted, “He casts out demons by the ruler of the demons” (9:34). Rather, these were seeking to trap Him in order to discredit Him in front of the crowds, and to justify their hard-heartedness toward Him.
B. (:2-3) Maligning Discernment Limited to Earthly Phenomena
- (:2-3a) Able to Predict Weather
a. (:2) Both Fair Weather
“But He answered and said to them, ‘When it is evening, you say,
It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’”
Craig Blomberg: As clouds move from west to east, the dawn sunlight will tint them in the west, portending rain as the day progresses. In the evening the same phenomenon suggests that the clouds have almost disappeared, bringing good weather instead. We preserve this proverb today with the rhyme: “Red sky in morning, sailors take warning; red sky at night, sailors delight.”
b. (:3a) And Stormy Weather
“And in the morning,
‘There will be a storm today, for the sky is red and threatening.’”
- (:3b) Unable to Perceive the Signs of the Times
“Do you know how to discern the appearance of the sky,
but cannot discern the signs of the times?”
Robert Gundry: Jesus starts with evening because Jews counted a day as starting at sunset, and he excoriates the Pharisees and Sadducees for being adept at meteorology but clueless at eschatology. They’re so ignorant of the end times that they don’t recognize the coming of God’s reign in the words and deeds of Jesus.
Grant Osborne: In Jesus’ words and deeds, those signs have been given, and the leaders are “totally lacking in spiritual discernment” so that they will be held accountable by God for their failure. The use of “the sky” (τοῦ οὐρανοῦ) is probably a deliberate pun on their demand for a “sign from heaven” in v. 1 (so Hagner).
Jeffrey Crabtree: The signs were Jesus’ miracles (12:28). Jesus was not operating in a vacuum. There were many evidences if these men had just been open to them.
D. A. Carson: Here these “signs of the times” point neither to the future nor (contra Hoekema, Bible and the Future, 133) to what God has done in the past. Instead, they testify to Jesus and the kingdom now dawning (cf. 11:4–6; 12:28).
Charles Swindoll: By “signs of the times,” Jesus was probably referring to the many miraculous signs that had already repeatedly and clearly pointed to the fact that He was the long-awaited Messiah. Recall that when John the Baptizer had questioned whether Jesus was the “Expected One,” Jesus had replied, “Go and report to John what you hear and see: the blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them” (11:3-5). Based on these clear signs of the coming of the messianic kingdom, anybody with a believing heart and a discerning mind should have been able to conclude that the Messiah was present. But even in light of these clear signs of the Messiah, the Pharisees and Sadducees had closed the eyes of their hearts and blocked their ears to discernment. Instead, they wallowed in hard-hearted unbelief.
C. (:4a) Motives Denounced of Those Seeking Supernatural Signs
- Exposing Their Character
“An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign;”
Bruce Hurt: Evil (wicked, bad) (poneros from poneo = work or toil, cf poneria) means evil, malignant character, pernicious and denotes a determined, aggressive, and fervent evil that actively opposes what is good. Poneros is not just bad in character (like kakos), but bad in effect (injurious), evil in active opposition to good. Poneros used to describe Satan (ho poneros = “Evil one“), the god of this age, who is corrupting man and dragging him to destruction. This denotes someone who is not content in being corrupt themselves. They seek to corrupt others and draw them into the same destruction!
John MacArthur: “adulterous generation” – The scribes and Pharisees (Mt 12:24, 38+) represented the nation of Israel, which had wandered far from God’s Word and fellowship and which had become enmeshed in the superficial, self-righteous, and legalistic religion those leaders epitomized. The unbelieving Jews were not only physically and mentally but spiritually adulterous because they had breached the vows of their unique covenant relationship with God, a relationship the Old Testament frequently speaks of in terms of marriage (see Ps. 73:27; Isa. 50:1; Jer. 3:6–10; 13:27; Hos. 9:1). Their idolatry, immorality, unbiblical traditions, and hardness of heart marked them as an evil people. During the Babylonian captivity Jews had forsaken formal idolatry, in the sense of worshiping physical objects carved from wood, stone, or metal. But in its place they erected idols of man-made tradition in which they trusted and put their hope. They had abandoned the Canaanite gods for ones of their own making and in doing so were just as much in rebellion against the true God as when they offered sacrifices to Baal or Molech. A Jew who faithfully served God under the covenant given to Moses would accept His Son when He came, because anyone rightly related to the Father could not fail to recognize the Son-just as did the godly Simeon and Anna (Luke 2:25–38), John the Baptist (Matt. 3:14), and the twelve disciples, except Judas (Carl Bloch’s famous painting of Judas retiring from the Last Supper) (Mt 4:20–22; Mark 3:13; Luke 5:27–28; John 1:41, 49). Because they knew the Father, they knew the Son and did not need a sign to verify His identity.
Donald Hagner: It is surprising that in a wide variety of different fields of knowledge human beings can be so knowledgeable and perceptive, yet in the realm of the knowledge of God exist in such darkness. The explanation of the latter sad state is not to be found in a lack of intellectual ability—no more for the Pharisees and Sadducees than for today. The evidence is there, examinable and understandable for those who are open to it and who welcome it. The issue in the knowledge of God is not intellect but receptivity. The “signs of the times,” i.e., as narrated in the gospel of the ministry of Jesus, are there to be received and affirmed by faith. That is the key point. Again the further request for a sign under these circumstances only reveals an adamant refusal to receive the truth. To those in this unfortunate frame of mind the truth is that no sign will suffice.
Leon Morris: A generation here signifies the people alive at that time. He castigates it as evil, for it has turned away from goodness and right. It is also adulterous, for it is false to its vows; it professed to be the people of God but walked in the ways of the evil one. It looks for a sign; it directs its energies to sign-seeking. But, Jesus says, this is all in vain; the generation in question will not get the sign it seeks.
- Exchanging their Demand for the Ultimate Sign
“and a sign will not be given it, except the sign of Jonah.”
Daniel Doriani: Jonah, you recall, did not perform signs; he was the sign. Thrown overboard into a raging sea, swallowed by a great fish, spat out on dry ground, then preaching to great effect to the Assyrians of Nineveh, the very life of Jonah was the sign. The mere presence of a Jewish prophet in a hostile city was a sign. So too with Jesus. The leaders do not need signs by Jesus; they need to see Jesus. His presence, his life, is God’s greatest sign, then and now.
William Barclay: So what Jesus is saying is that God’s sign is Jesus himself and his message. It is as if he said to them: ‘In me you are confronted with God and with the truth of God. What more could you possibly need? But you are so blind that you cannot see it.’ There is truth and there is warning here. Jesus Christ is God’s last word. Beyond him the revelation of God cannot go. Here is God plain for all to see. Here is God’s message plain for all to hear. Here is God’s sign to the world. It is the warning truth that if Jesus cannot appeal to men and women, nothing can. If Jesus cannot convince them, no one can. If men and women cannot see God in Jesus, they cannot see God in anything or anyone. When we are confronted with Jesus Christ, we are confronted with God’s final word and God’s ultimate appeal. If that is so, what can be left for those who throw away that last chance, who refuse to listen to that last word, who reject that last appeal?
Matthew McCraw: Church: don’t be like the Pharisees and Sadducees. Be aware of the signs. Be aware of what God is showing us in the Bible, what He has shown in history, what He is showing through the natural world, and what He is showing as He works supernaturally in our individual lives. Be aware of the signs. See Jesus at work. Know that He is, indeed, Messiah. Know that He is God.
(:4b) Epilogue – Abandonment by Jesus
“And He left them, and went away.”
Stu Weber: Jesus did not haggle any longer than necessary with those who were opposed to the truth. He did not ignore them or avoid them, but neither did he get into a long and fruitless debate. When it was clear they were more interested in debating than in learning, Jesus went another direction.
Walter Wilson: The story of Jesus being tested by the devil concludes with the devil leaving the scene (4:11). The story of Jesus being tested by the Pharisees and Sadducees concludes with Jesus leaving the scene (16:4c). As with the conclusion to other controversy stories, Jesus symbolically separates from the religious leaders of Israel, the fact that this is his final debate with leaders from Galilee lending the gesture added significance. His public ministry in Galilee is all but over (cf. 17:14–21).
Just as Jesus separates physically from the religious leaders of Israel (16:4c), his followers must do the same spiritually. Before they can do so, however, they must be led to the truth by their teacher, whose solicitude is demonstrated both by the manner in which he meets their basic physical needs (16:9–10) and by his efforts to protect them from dangerous rival teachers (16:6, 11–12).
Josiah Boyd: At this point in Matthew’s gospel we’ve read of Jesus withdrawing from his opposition. [4:12a; 12:14–15a; 14:13a; 15:21] Jesus had been confronted many times with resistance from Israel and his response has been to pull-back for a respite, to re-group, and to re-aim his efforts.
But our text today doesn’t say Jesus withdrew. Instead, Matthew reports that he left. If you look that word up in a Greek dictionary you’ll read this: “to depart from a place, with implication of finality,” i.e., to forsake or abandon. [Eph 5:31]
Do you get the picture? As opposition increases, Jesus pulls back, pulls back, pulls back, until finally, he just leaves.
We’ve all experienced resistance to the point of resignation. You work hard with repeated attempts but, at some point you realize you’re knocking your head against a wall and it’s leaving time.
I picture Jesus in verse 4, his head hung low in grief and helplessness, turning from these so-called leaders and walking away, dusting his hands as he goes. There’s a sense of tragic finality in the air, a sorry conclusiveness in Jesus’s leaving.
And as he leaves Jesus issues a warning. Testing, leaving, warning.
II. (:5-12) IMPERATIVE OF DISCERNING FALSE TEACHING – ESPECIALLY WRONG VIEWS ABOUT JESUS
Grant Osborne: This passage combines opposition and discipleship. The first part (vv. 5–6) is a warning about the spreading evil of the Pharisees and Sadducees, the second part concerns the “little-faith” obtuseness of the disciples that is turned around by the presence of Jesus into understanding. As the final interpreter of Torah, Jesus once more instructs the disciples, so this continues the emphases we have already seen dominating this section of Matthew.
David Turner: In this passage Jesus patiently yet firmly deals again with the “little faith” of the disciples. He improves their spiritual perception by prodding their memory. If they recall the previous miracle meals, they will realize that food is not the problem and that they must deal with the increasing opposition to Jesus. If they watch out for the teaching of the Jewish leaders, Jesus will care for their food problems. This rebuke of the forgetful disciples should sharpen the mental and spiritual focus of God’s people today. Preoccupation with temporal and material concerns continues to render disciples dull and forgetful of the values of the kingdom and of false teaching that endangers it.
A. (:5-6) Danger of False Teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees Presented
- (:5) Worrying about Physical Sustenance
“And the disciples came to the other side and had forgotten to take bread.”
Stanley Saunders: The troubling element in this episode is that the disciples are indeed still worrying about bread, when it should be clear to them by now that in the messianic time and in the presence of the Messiah himself, God will supply what they need. It’s the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees they should be worrying about.
- (:6) Warning Issued
“And Jesus said to them,
‘Watch out and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.’”
Kenneth Wuest: Watch out! and Beware – The first verb is horaō “to see, to become acquainted with by experience.” This word gives prominence to the discerning mind. The disciples were to use their heads. They were to put the teachings of the Pharisees and the Herodians to the acid test of experience, not in the actual doing of the things taught, but with the mind’s eye following out the ultimate conclusion of the act of practicing what they taught. The verb is present imperative, commanding the beginning of an action and its habitual continuance. The second verb is blepō “to perceive by the use of the eyes.” It is used in a metaphorical sense, “to see with the mind’s eye, to discern mentally, understand, to turn the thoughts or direct the mind to a thing, to consider, to take heed.” It is also present imperative, “Be constantly keeping a watchful eye open to consider and take heed of.”
Grant Osborne: The disciples must always be wary and vigilant (present tense imperatives) in the face of such pernicious doctrine.
William Barclay: Leaven has a second meaning which is metaphorical and not literal and physical. It was the Jewish metaphorical expression for an evil influence. To the Jewish mind, leaven was always symbolic of evil. It is fermented dough; the Jews identified fermentation with putrefaction; leaven stood for all that was rotten and bad. Leaven has the power to permeate any mass of dough into which it is inserted. Therefore leaven stood for an evil influence liable to spread through life and to corrupt it.
D. A. Carson: The “teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees” to which Jesus refers (vv.5–12), therefore, is an attitude of unbelief toward divine revelation that could not perceive Jesus to be the Messiah (vv.1–4) but that tried to control and tame the Messiah they claimed to await. The disciples are to avoid that. This is why the next pericope (vv.13–20) is so important: Peter makes the confession that Jesus is the Messiah, not on the basis of manipulative signs, but by revelation from the Father.
B. (:7-11) Dullness of the Disciples
- (:7) Distracted Focus on Physical Nourishment
“And they began to discuss among themselves, saying,
‘It is because we took no bread.’”
Charles Swindoll: Jesus was perturbed that the dull disciples could only think of the emptiness of stomachs while He was concerned about the emptiness of souls. Their conversation should have been about the Pharisees and Sadducees, the growing opposition to the preaching of Jesus, the stubbornness of the critics’ hearts, and the danger that they posed to the easily swayed masses. The disciples’ preoccupation with earthly things had desensitized them regarding spiritual things.
- (:8-11) Directed Focus to Spiritual Nourishment
a. (:8) Problem of Little Faith
“But Jesus, aware of this, said, ‘You men of little faith,
why do you discuss among yourselves that you have no bread?’”
Donald Hagner: Jesus rebukes them for being so caught up with this problem, addressing them with the word ὀλιγόπιστοι, “people of little faith.” In every instance of the use of this word in Matthew, it is addressed to disciples in a context where the question concerns their ultimate welfare and the reality of God’s provision for them (cf. 6:30; 8:26; 14:31). The implication here seems to be that the disciples can trust God’s provision for their physical need and that they ought not to be so distracted by the lack of bread that they miss altogether the point of an important spiritual warning Jesus gives them.
Grant Osborne: Jesus is clearly upset at the disciples’ lack of comprehension and their total concern with the mundane (who wouldn’t be!), and he cries out against their vapid dialogue. So here the lack of faith is connected to their failure to trust God’s provision for their physical needs. As Brown says, there are two areas where their misunderstanding and “little faith” overlapped: Jesus’ enigmatic saying, but even more the truth that Jesus had the ability to provide for their needs. So the reminder in vv. 9–10 of his previous displays of power to provide was to help them “understand the extent of Jesus’ authority.” . . .
The disciples were “little-faith ones” not because they had no faith but because their faith was obscured by self-interest and the priority of personal needs and wants, in this case, food. That characterizes all of us most of the time. We do not “have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns” (Mark 8:33b). We have not learned to “set your minds on things above, not on earthly things” (Col 3:1–2). Our treasures are on earth rather than in heaven (Matt 6:19–21). Faith is not just the act of trusting God to do things for us. It is an attitude, a lifestyle of absolute God-dependence and reliance on Christ.
b. (:9-10) Previous Lessons Forgotten
1) (:9) Lesson from the Feeding of the 5,000
“Do you not yet understand or remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets you took up?”
2) (:10) Lesson from the Feeding of the 4,000
“Or the seven loaves of the four thousand,
and how many large baskets you took up?”
R. T. France: Not only have they failed to “remember” the two feeding miracles, but they have not yet “realized” what those miracles revealed about Jesus. At the lowest level they showed that he could miraculously supply food, so that the disciples had no need to worry. But they also added to the growing evidence for who Jesus was, for the source of his authority and the nature of his mission, and it will be their understanding of that more fundamental issue which will be probed in the next episode. We hear again here Jesus’ frustration at their slowness in understanding, as it was expressed in 15:16–17. It is time they had put two and two together.
Craig Blomberg: Incidental support appears here as well for viewing those two miracles as distinct. Interestingly, the difference between the words for baskets is preserved in vv. 9-10, confirming our hunch that these terms were significant pointers to the one miracle as for Jews and the other for Gentiles.
c. (:11) Perspective Clarified
1) Not Focusing on Physical Bread
“How is it that you do not understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread?”
2) Focusing on the Danger of False Teaching
“But beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”
Jeffrey Crabtree: Jesus’ warning about the Pharisees’ and Sadducees’ leaven had nothing to do with food (v. 11). Rather, it had everything to do with their doctrine, or—more specifically—their opinion of Him. Like leaven, false doctrine can permeate and corrupt what is at first pure and wholesome (Wilkins 556). The doctrine of these two groups was actively corrupting all who allowed it to enter their hearts. The Twelve must not allow the Pharisees’ and Sadducees’ critical attitude toward Jesus and their call for a spectacular sign (v. 1) to corrupt and destroy their own faith.
C. (:12) Danger of False Teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees Perceived
“Then they understood that He did not say to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”
Donald Hagner: But if instead we look for a particular “teaching” held in common by the Pharisees and Sadducees, keeping in mind the immediately preceding passage (vv 1–4) and the unified front of the two groups against Jesus (cf. 22:34; Acts 5:17), it could be found in a preconception of the nature of the Messiah and messianic fulfillment—a fulfillment that of necessity would include a national-political dimension [ED: and the immediate inception of that physical kingdom on earth] (cf. their inability to read the “signs of the times” [v 3]). The “teaching” would thus be that of the united front of Jewish leadership, which was also widely held by the masses (and even the disciples, hence the appropriateness of the warning here). It disqualified Jesus from any claim to being the agent of messianic fulfillment. This “teaching” was indeed like leaven in that it affected all else and would indeed ultimately bring Jesus to his death.